Friday, December 07, 2007


Writing The Breakout Novel

This is the third time - in about as many years - that I’m going through the book “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass (writer and literary agent). The title says it: if you want to enhance your pacing, your plot or your characters, then this is the manual for you.

Some of the practical advice that you can expect from the book includes:
· Raise the personal stakes so that they “dig deep down to show us who we are”. The higher the stakes, the higher the novel’s success.
· Remember that the setting is more than landscape or rooms: it’s the geographical and historical context for your characters’ ideas, motivation and actions.
· “Subplots must affect the overall outcome of the story.”
· We all need heroes. Is the main character of your novel a real hero or just a protagonist?
· Conflicting ideas = tension.
· Stir your reader: if you have a dog in your story, kick it. If you have a character who’s easy to like, kill them.
· Let the theme of the novel arise from your passion.
· Symbols may either enhance your novel, or make it feel stage-y.

A word of warning here: if you are a true writer, you will find it difficult to read the book from cover to cover. After the first chapter, you will have this insatiable urge to open your work-in-progress and start writing....

(Sorry to end this mid-air, but I’ve just paged through “Writing the Breakout Novel” looking for quotes and now you can find me in front of my latest manuscript.)

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